Cowboys survive early wins by the Culver Bulldogs to take the Cowdog Classic 41-28

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Mario Hansen, left, and Cole Little battle at 220 pounds during the Cowdog Classic. Hansen scored three points in the second round, then held on to take a tight 3-2 victory over Little. The win helped propel the Cowboys to a 41-28 win over the Bulldogs. The Crook County Cowboys survived an early blow from the host Culver Bulldogs to take a hard-fought, 41-28, win Wednesday night in the Cowdog Classic.

"I think that tonight's match was exactly what we needed," Crook County head coach Jake Huffman said. "We much respect Culver, and we really appreciate these guys. They are a tough team. There is a reason that a lot of big schools won't dual these guys. It's not easy to come in here and wrestle and that's why we do it every year — because it makes us better."

The annual event is one of the most anticipated wrestling duals of the year as year in and year out the Cowboys and the Bulldogs have two of the best wrestling programs in the state.

Don't let school size fool you. Just because Culver is Class 2A doesn't mean that the Bulldogs can't put up a fight.

Last year Culver found a way to knock off Crook County for the first time in series history, and the Cowboys went into Wednesday's match looking for payback.

After the Cowboys won eight of 10 JV matches the lights went down and the competition started in earnest.

Competition started at 132 pounds and wrestling under a spotlight Zachary Mauras quickly handled Culver's Cooper Becker, scoring a 21-6 technical fall to give Crook County an early 5-0 lead. When Cole Morgan defeated Lane Downing 4-2 in their 138-pound match the Cowboys led 8-0 and looked like they were in charge.

However, the Bulldogs battled back to take the lead.

First Jorge Olivera earned a major decision over Tyler Fioravanti at 145 pounds to make the score 8-4.

Then Victor Torres pinned Turner Austin early in the second period of their 152-pound match as Culver took a 10-8 lead.

The Bulldogs extended the lead to 16-8 as Jerron Rhen pinned Wyatt Parker late in the second round of their 160-pound match.

"Culver has winning bred into them," Huffman said. "J.D. (Alley, Culver's head coach) has got a lot of pride, so that carries over into his team and I knew they were going to have their kids ready to go. We got smacked right in the mouth and to be honest, that was exactly what we needed."

The Cowboys won the next two matches as Kyle Knudtson and Jaxson Rhoden both picked up pins, giving Crook County a 20-16 lead.

"I felt like the pace was fast and I could have slowed down a little bit," Rhoden said after his win. "But the way that the dual was going at the beginning I just had to go as hard as I could. This dual is awesome, it's insane how many people they pack in this gym. We feel like we are confident, but I don't think that we have peaked yet. We still have to peak, so I don't think that we have wrestled our best yet."

However, the Bulldogs weren't finished. When Cylus Hoke took a 7-4 decision over Cal Wilcox in their 195pound match Culver was back within a point.

Then came the pivotal match of the night as Crook County's Mario Hansen took on Culver's Cole Little in a 22-pound match.

The match went down to the wire, with both wrestlers having plenty of opportunity to win.

After a scoreless first round Hansen picked up an escape and a takedown in the second round to take a 3-0 lead.

However, Little battled back, scoring a late takedown to close to within a point at 3-2. Little tried frantically to turn Hansen on his back as the clock ran down, but the Cowboy grappler kept his composure and eked out the 3-2 victory.

"A lot of people thought that was going to be the match," Huffman said. "Mario found a way to win that one, and I think that's going to spark him back on the wining track."

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County's Steven Ware, left, trips Culver's Brody Piercy early in their 106-pound match. Ware won by fall early in the second period. "It's nice to come back and get revenge for last year," Hansen said. "Especially when they are the other toughest team in Central Oregon. It's a great atmosphere and their town is just like ours — good old boys."

Following Hansen's tough win the cowboys were able to open up a lead as Caleb Parrott (285) and Steven Ware (106) picked up falls in their matches, extending the Cowboy lead to 35-19.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Culver made the score 35-18 with three matches remaining.

Then came one of the most highly anticipated matches of the evening as Crook County's Hunter Mode moved up from 106 pounds to challenge Culver's Lorenzo Vasquez at 113 pounds. The previous weekend Mode had won the 106 pound championship at the Reser's Tournament of Champions while Vasquez had won the 113 pound title.

Using his superior strength, Vasquez took an early lead and continued to roll, racking up a 10-1 major decision over Mode.

However, Huffman was pleased with Mode's effort.

"I was really proud of Mode for bumping up to 113 against a huge 113-pounder and saving team points," he said. "Tyler Fioravanti did the same thing against a huge 145-pounder, one of the best wrestlers to come out of Culver, and saved us some team points. Those matches really mattered in the outcome."

With Vasquez unable to earn either a technical fall or pin against Mode, the match clinched the dual for the Cowboys.

However, Culver still made the dual interesting as Anthony Hood came back from an early deficit to pin Trevor Martin in their 120-pound match.

"I told Jake when I came home after the Roseburg dual (A 43-17 Crook County victory) that somehow we have to figure out a way to score more than 17 points and then we can say we are better than Roseburg," Alley said. "Then, after the Classic finals it was well, we have got to find a way to get more than 24 so that we can say that we are better than Tillamook. I thought that we kind of shot ourselves in the foot at 220 and then when 120 came around and we were losing I thought that we were going to fall a little bit short, but Anthony came up big. That kid has beat him twice this year, so that was a real raise the roof deal for the crowd and that was a good match for us."

After the exciting 120-pound match the final match of the night was anticlimactic as Crook County's Pacer Quire was in control throughout, leading 16-4 before picking up a third round fall over Orlando Torres.

Following the match the two teams posed for a group photo as fans lined the grandstands staying to take in the atmosphere after the friendly rivalry.

The Cowboys have one more dual prior to the regional wrestling tournament.

Crook County hosts the Redmond Panthers on Wednesday, Jan. 31. JV wrestling is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with varsity wrestling to follow. It is senior night for the Cowboys, who will take time to honor their 10 seniors, Brittney Vanderjagt, Morgan, Tucker Shores, Quire, Johan Becht, Mason Cooley, Fioravanti, Austin, Victor Garcia, and Parker.

Crook County 41, Culver 28

Wednesday, January 24

Matches began at 132 pounds

At Culver

132 — Zachary Mauras CC, over Cooper Becker, C, TF 21-6.

138 — Cole Morgan, CC, over Lane Downing, C, 4-2 dec.

145 — Jorge Olivera, C, over Tyler Fioravanti, CC, 11-1 md.

152 — Victor Torres, C, by fall over Turner Austin, CC, 2:48.

160 — Jerron Rhen, C, by fall over Wyatt Parker, CC, 3:51.

170 — Kyle Knudtson, CC, by fall over Josoph Russo, C, 3:21.

182 — Jaxson Rhoden, CC, by fall over Joey Navarro, C, 1:34.

195 — Cylus Hoke, C, over Cal Wilcox, CC, 7-4 dec.

220 — Mario Hansen, CC, over Cole Little, C, 3-2 dec.

285 — Caleb Parrott, CC, by fall over Martin Negrete, C, 0:26.

106 — Steven Ware, CC, by fall over Brody Piercy, C, 2:54.

113 — Lorenzo Vasquez, C, over Hunter Mode, CC, 10-1 md.

120 — Anthony Hood, C, by fall over Trevor Martin, CC, 3:09.

126 — Pacer Quire, CC, by fall over Orlando Torres, C, 5:13.

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